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True Immorality Lies In Using Vieques To Vent Against U.S.

by Arturo J. Guzman

February 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

Judging by public and media reaction, my recent article "Archbishops do not speak for all Catholics" published by the Star on February 5th, seems to have become a factor in helping to stimulate a long absent debate on the role of the Catholic Church, and churches in general, in our society.

In his reply of February 12th, Archbishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio, stated "What Mr. Guzman calls my ‘ideological and political activism’ is nothing else than the normal teaching of our Catholic Social Doctrine". Further, Archbishop Corrada stated, "Perhaps Mr. Guzman’s training in our Catholic faith is weak in this area of social doctrine". Later statements by the Bishops of Ponce and Mayaguez, coinciding with my opinion and even quoting the same words from the Holy Father, seem to assert that at least the three of us share the same "weakness".

Fully recognizing my place and station, I would never speak for others. Nonetheless, I wish to assure Archbishop Corrada and the Star readership, that the priests and nuns to whom I owe at least part of my education, more than made up for any lapses in their teaching of religion by imparting me knowledge on other subjects such as History. Lessons that taught me that throughout the centuries men of the cloth, perhaps acting in their time on what they perceived to be their dogmatic and moral duty, perpetrated acts ranging from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the introduction of Black slavery to the Americas, and most recently their initial support of Germany’s National Socialism (Nazism) as the antidote to Communism’s state-sponsored atheism.

That is partly why I am concerned and weary about present actions undertaken by men and women of the cloth, perhaps also full of good intentions, on behalf and in the name of the Church. On the issue of Vieques they are justifying their activism, intervention and interference in matters of state and politics, under the subterfuge that these are "moral" issues. As such, they have termed military exercises, the proposed agreement and referendum, and other acts of the federal and insular administrations, as "immoral".

I beg to differ once again. As part of what appears to be the overwhelming majority opinion in Puerto Rico, I also coincide in stating that the U.S. Navy has overstayed its welcome in Vieques and it should leave in an orderly manner as soon as feasible without compromising the defense of the nation.

One can say that the U.S. Navy is wrong, that live-ammunition practice is unacceptable, that the entire situation is an imposition due to the colonial nature of Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States, that we reject the use of Vieques as a military training ground, or any other substantive objection. But immoral? Never. This is not a moral but a substantive issue appertaining the federal government, our elected officials, and the permanent residents of Vieques.

To denominate military training, preparedness of our service personnel, the U.S. Navy or any of the branches of our national armed forces, as "immoral" is to desecrate the memory of thousands of lives that have been lost on behalf of the nation’s defense. These represent the toil, suffering and sacrifice that have allowed our system of freedom and democratic rights to prevail to the extreme of offering full guarantees of expression to even those that now consider their deeds and acts of valor as "immoral".

I for one refuse to believe that officials of organized religion would selectively consider moral arguments without taking into account the immorality that would be constituted by fostering conditions that could turn to violence. Or the immorality that would be incurred by placing our service personnel, including thousandsb of Puerto Ricans, in harm’s way as a result of inadequate training or haste.

It becomes evident that my values and moral judgment conflict and I feel compelled to offer you what I consider immoral: to me an immoral act is to take advantage of the situation in Vieques as a means to vent ideological or political sentiment against the United States even at the expense of the well being of that community. To me it is perfectly moral to provide Viequenses the necessary support for their plight, but perfectly immoral to pretend that carpetbaggers who have moved in for other reasons, know better and can decide better than the local citizens.

Finally, to me the utmost immorality would be to deny the residents of Vieques the opportunity for democratic expression free of intervention and interference so that they can decide their own future in peace. To them, I offer my moral support and my prayers.

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